Friday, February 20, 2015

Am I lucky?


End of story?


Last year the Intruder motorhome I bought kind of fell apart and earned the name In-Turd-er. Bad luck. Right? Not really. Over the next eight months, it was transformed into GrandpaLyle’s Ark. And I love the Ark.

While the In-Turd-er was sidelined, I was fortunate enough to join a Solid Rock Carpenters trip to Guatemala where we built two homes for two families in three days. It was amazing. These were not huts – they had concrete floors, tin roofs, three rooms and electricity.

The real story for me, however, was not in building houses. It was in discovering just how little I knew about myself. Home-building trips are always arduous, involving crowded flights, interminable school bus rides and living accommodations that make primitive camping look like a spa trip.

Day one on the job was simple: level the rocky ground and pour a concrete slab. I’ve done concrete work before – decades ago – and it was hard then. It’s for young, strong, macho dudes. This trip I did my best to keep up with the girls shoveling sand. Right up to the point where one said, “Lyle, you’d better take a break. Your face is beet red.” So I did. For the rest of the day.

After dinner, the team broke up into small groups. Adventurous ones walked into town, some played games, others just sat around talking, a few retired for the night. Instead of acting my age and heading for bed I wandered around hoping to find some “action." 

The best part of my day was yet to come. Kylie, Adrianna, Alex and Matt, all  kids (remember, that’s anyone under 30!), allowed me to join their conversation. It was lively. It was exciting. I was part of the scene – hanging out with "the popular kids.” I felt so young and cool. 

Right up to the moment Kylie asked if she could adopt me as her Grandpa. 

Although I have six grandchildren at home, until then I don't think I really knew what grandpa-ing was. For the remainder of the trip, my newly adopted grandkids included me in everything they did. They patiently nurtured grandpa when aging bones called for a slow-down. Then they just as patiently listened to stories that sent my kids into "yada, yada, yada" mode. They were taking care of me.

The whole scene felt surreal. I didn’t feel old. But I was clearly not one of the kids. Not even one of the parents. I was a grandpa. And it was wonderful. Never again did I have to worry about jousting with the guys to be at the top of the heap. Nor be a superhero to win a girl’s affections. I was cool just for who I was. 

Is that lucky or what?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The busiest airport in the world.

While tooling down the road in GrandpaLyle’s Ark, I thought of Bill Reyer, a dear friend who lives in New York, and how much I thought he would enjoy being on the road like I was.

It wasn't long after that that we talked and I shared these thoughts with him. We rambled on and as our conversations always do, since we’re both pilots the subject inevitably drifted to stories about flying, some factual, some fanciful, most somewhere in between. One of Bill’s favorites is recorded in Flight of Fancy (Hyperion Books, $12.95), the memoir of two New Jersey teens that bought a Piper Cub and flew it from New Jersey to California nearly fifty years ago.

Like those boys, Bill owns a Piper Cub. (For the enthusiasts among you, it’s actually a perfectly restored Super Cub.) And like old guys do, we fantasized what a wonderful trip that would be. The devil in me couldn’t resist taunting him, “You have a Cub, Bill. Instead of being the youngest to make that trip, why not be the oldest?"

Then the brainstorm. For one week every year Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, WI, becomes the busiest airport in the world. EAA AirVenture, known to everyone simply as Oshkosh, is the SuperBowl of general aviation – everything flying other than airlines and military would be there. Hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts visit the show every year. A few actually fly in for the festivities and park their planes on the airport grounds. 

GrandpaLyle to Bill: Why not fly your Cub to Oshkosh. That’s almost a cool as flying coast to coast – maybe cooler.

Bill: Harumph. Harumph. What about weather? Where will we stay? Will we have enough fuel? Etc., etc., etc. 

G: Oh, c’mon. The hard part is flying into and out of Oshkosh. And I’ll be right there with you for that part. (I’ve flown into the show before.)

B: Well, maybe if you came to New York and rode with me?

G: (Momentary pause.) You’re on! 

B: What?!

G: I’ll fly to New York and together we’ll fly your Cub to Oshkosh. What could be cooler than that? After the show you drop me off in Chicago then fly home solo. No more talk, it’s a done deal.

B: (Unintelligible grumbling, but I knew I had him.)

Wait a minute. Who had who? What have I done? Although Bill flies regularly, I haven’t been at the controls for years. Everyone says it’s like riding a bicycle – it comes right back to you. 

But it’s not a bicycle. And I haven’t ridden a bicycle in more than fifty years. 

And bicycles don’t have to meet a piece of pavement the size of a postage stamp at 60 miles per hour. Harumph yourself, GrandpaLyle.

More to come . . .